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I have had two modesty revolutions in my life.  My parents raised me with rules for modest dress that were moderately conservative in the first place, so these revolutions weren’t very drastic.  But they were significant.

 

When I was 18 and packing for a week at summer camp, it wasn’t a wild rebellion I was converting from; it was legalism.  Now usually legalism-rejection is thought of as release from rules, but in this case it was understanding them, and even strengthening their practical outworking by my new convictions.

 

As a young woman hoping to be married and with an eye on one boy in particular, I had been feeling disappointed at the lack of romantic attention.  I’d been, à la purity movement, attempting to wrestle back crushes and all feelings of attraction preceding open commitment, which did at least have the advantage of helping me to trust God with the hope that He’d keep me from getting too involved with a man not meant for me.  But looking back, my philosophy of disguise and suppress had the disadvantage of being at least as responsible for my loneliness as was my modest dress.  I didn’t think of all that while I was packing that year.  I felt that form-fitting, curve-accentuating tank tops which barely met the letter of the dress code were a promising, take-charge strategy for demanding that one boy’s attention.

 

As Providence would have it, though, the radio station I’d been listening to as I folded and tried on, counted and packed, began to play a women’s Bible study program I’d recently discovered.  I don’t remember anymore the exact words Nancy Leigh DeMoss said, except that it convinced me my motives were all wrong: that the core meaning of modesty is to NOT force others to give us attention and praise.  Feeling the conviction of the power play I’d been intending, I pulled everything out of my suitcase to start over, not even daring the temptation of brining the tanks to layer with other things (the reason I owned them at all).

 

For the second paradigm shift, we have to fast forward several years, past the full-Victorian skirt alternating with denim in classic homeschool style phase, and through a deep contemplation of biblical teachings on gender roles and leadership.  This revolution was more gradual.  Part of it was a maturing familiarity with what did and didn’t look good on me personally.  More forceful was the conviction that too much “modesty” or inattention to beauty was making it hard for Christian men and also younger girls and even non-Christian women to resist the allure of worldly, far less modest women.

 

At this time of my life, I had been introduced to sidewalk counseling.  And I noticed that one of the ladies who’d been out there most consistently, and had dozens of “saves” over the years, always did her hair and came in a nice blouse and comfortable, but nice pants or jeans.  She didn’t wear t-shirts with messages that would scare non-Christians away.  There’s a place for confrontational t-shirts, but her goal was to invite women to interact with her, to listen to the help she offered, and to trust her.  I imagined being one of those pregnant women, with so many misplaced values.  While overcoming the prejudices against people outside abortion clinics, personal fears of motherhood, and priorities of a life without a child for the present – did these girls also have to be asked to get past a slovenly or completely out-of-date appearance of the one offering help?  The other lady was older, not very likely to incite jealousy in women walking in with boyfriends, but I still look fairly young, and try to balance my look with being approachable but, harkening back to my first revolution, not demanding attention that would make me seem a threat to a potentially fragile relationship.  I want to be “all things to all people” without being on the level of immodesty that some of these women practice.

 

Young girls seek role models.  They look around for someone who looks beautiful, and try to imitate all they see.  It’s natural.  Admittedly, girls go through stages where they believe anything with glitter and sequins is pretty; then they hit the lace stage, and move on to the dangly earrings.  At least I did, as a kid.  So I’m not saying young girls are the most discerning.  But they can tell, when someone is trying to look good, and that shapes what they define as beautiful.

 

Young men were once young boys who probably experienced a similar thing as the young girls, though I have not had any direct experience, and far fewer conversations on the subject with men.  Additionally, though, they start to shape convictions, all muddled together with ideals of modesty and what sort of woman would make them the sort of wife that would go with the sort of life they’re aspiring to.  And here’s where it gets tricky, because Christian young men are taught to value modesty.  They don’t have to be taught to value beauty; it’s kind of built in.  A good Christian woman may or may not be pretty, but she must be modest.  That’s the kind of girl to keep an eye out for.  So the youth pastors and the parents and the mentors say.  But biology and Disney and pretty much ever commercial or TV show ever tells them that they should look for a woman who will make them happy.  And that, they soon discover, is far easier to feel when a woman is looking her best.  But guess what:  the good, modest Christian girls are so busy being modest that they’re not trying to be beautiful.

 

A good Christian teenage girl is taught to consider her brother, and to esteem his needs and temptations.  Therefore, she must be careful to cover up.  No argument.  My revolution came when I realized that my Christian brothers needed the help of their sisters combining modesty with looking good.  It wasn’t fair to give them the impression – whether they were interested in me personally or not – that in order to choose a good woman, they had to sacrifice beauty.  It just wasn’t helpful to demand that men eschew every pretty women for one who looked like Mary Bailey, librarian, in the nightmare “what-if” of It’s A Wonderful Life: camouflage-like earth tones, hair pulled back into a tight pony tail, unadorned lips pressed together in a disapproving refusal to laugh.  It wasn’t edifying to try to redefine beauty as only having to do with the inside.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  That’s advice given in the Bible to a man about what kind of woman is a good wife.  And men should absolutely be taught that.  Disney should be defied, with their lies that following your heart is the way to live, and that attraction is the way to know if she’s “the one”.  Attractions can and do change completely, or ebb and flow.  The lies are destructive not only to choosing spouses, but to staying married.  They lie about what marriage (and sex) even is about.  These things that I believe rather fiercely were all also at the forefront of my mind as I met this second revolution.

 

I decided to change, to be way more intentional about how I look, to be competitive for the delight of little girls, to use my appearance to speak of my intentions to stand-offish abortion-minded women, and to make it easier for any man to believe that a woman can be good and pretty.  And if a man is supposed to love me, I don’t want to make it hard for him!

 

I decided to do my Christian brothers and sisters (and hopefully myself) a service and give them something pleasant and non-seductive to look at.  If a good song or a lovely painting can be expressions of creativity designed to point attention to our beautiful God, then can’t the way we present ourselves communicate good things, too?  God made beauty, and attraction, and within appropriate limits, I wanted to represent those truths.  I tried to encourage my girl friends to think about these things.  Little girls I know are dazzled by jewelry, make-up, and pretty clothes.  I wanted to show them those things could be enjoyed without short skirts and revealing tops.  Their moms needed reinforcement that immodesty isn’t the exclusive manifestation of beauty.  Neither does one have to be unattractive to have good character.  I began wearing necklaces often, especially around little girls obsessed with sparkle.  I found clothes that fit and were sometimes even fashionable!  A while later, I noticed the actresses whose eyes and faces I liked the most wore subtle eye-liner, so I got some and figured out for the first time how to use that one kind of make-up, still not every day, but sometimes.

 

It is still hard, to care but not too much.  It is a battle to allow myself to be attractive without worrying too much about being “all kinds of perfect” (until I can invite input from my own husband, whose opinion ought to count for a lot!)  I have to deal with a bit more unwanted attention.  To be honest, my wardrobe is more lax than it used to be: I own shorts and sleeveless tops, for example.

 

Whether my ideas are “working” is hard to say, but I believe I’ve hit on some truths that are wroth responding to, however we do it.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

 

 

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You only have so much of your heart, so much love that you can give away.
If you love one little kid you babysit, you’re not going to have as much love to give your own kid someday. If you enjoy your time with these kids now, it’s like you’re benefiting from a relationship with someone else’s kids.
What’s more, you’ll be comparing your own baby to all the other ones you’ve known, and someday you’ll have to tell your own children about the kids you loved before them.
Wouldn’t it be best not to care too much about kids who aren’t yours, not invest too much in spending time with them or thinking about who they are becoming and trying to be an edifying part of that?
Besides that, when you get close to a kid, the temptation is way stronger to be frustrated with them when they make immature mistakes, and you’ll be provoked to express anger. They also watch you all the time, so if you make a mistake, you’re going to set them a bad example. You need to take yourself out of situations that could increase your temptation.
Also, if you love a kid who isn’t yours, and then they move away or for some reason you can’t see them as much, it’s going to hurt. And wounds like that leave scars that affect the person you are, the ways you love others in the future. Wouldn’t it be better to go through life without that kind of heartbreak?
My friend never spent much time with other kids, and when her son was born, she had a wonderful relationship with him, and she is such a great mom. If you’ve never had kids of your own, there’s no way you can know how beautiful it is to never love any other children before your own.
~ satire on a subject that is very important to me
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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I remember reading the Anne of Green Gables series, how well it taught the lesson.  Anne turned down a silly farmer who asked her to marry him via his sister.  She said no to Gilbert who’d been her rival all through school.  She was disappointed when her best friend agreed to marry the ordinary local, Fred.  But maybe her friend Diana was onto something.  Maybe Anne’s tall, dark, handsome, charming ideal wasn’t what Anne really needed.  As fiction conveniently wends its way, Anne met with such a man at college.  They courted for months.  And in the final breathless moment when he asked her to be his wife, she realized that she’d been wrong.  Her girlhood husband list had been dreamy and foolish.  There was nothing so wrong with this man.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  The truth was, she had been meant for Gil all along, only her stubborn fantasies had kept her from accepting it.

Having a list seemed to help me when I was in high school.  It reminded me that love and marriage were about choice, not just feelings.  I still like my lists, even if only for self-knowledge.  In my case I was over 20 years old when I realized that a man doesn’t have to have a career plan for the rest of his life to make a good husband.  Many of the men I have ever respected (including my own dad) have been hard workers, caring for others, but trying different things, or whatever work they could find.  In a changing world, myself even desiring a bit of adventure, how could I demand stability? So my list has been modified.  As I’ve gained humility about my own certainty of how the world should be, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about some of the things.

Never mind the unforeseen and unknown; what selfish attitude is it that tells me that I can decide what I want and demand that I get that or else?  How was that affecting my relationships with men?  Is that what marriage is about?  Is that what life is about?

I know lots of examples of people digressing from their lists as they matured:

A friend said she’d never marry someone in the military.  Then she met her husband on a military base in Japan, and she changed her mind.

Another friend said her husband would have to own a top hat.  Would she really turn down an otherwise perfect match because he didn’t own the ideal accessory?  (The answer was “no”, she wouldn’t turn him down!)

Some friends wrestled with more serious questions.  Could they marry someone who was not a virgin?  What if his views on finances (debt, saving, spending) was different from hers?  If God was calling her to ministry, could she marry someone who didn’t have that same calling?

I suppose it goes both ways.  No doubt men have their own hang-ups.  One man I know struggled because his family owned many animals and the woman he was interested in had severe allergies.  I’ve heard that many men planning to be missionaries look only for women who are pursuing the same goal.

Some of these things are generally good wisdom.  A pastor I know counsels people to marry only if they’re physically attracted to one another (successful legacy of arranged marriages notwithstanding).  I know couples who were not attracted at first, but as they proceeded with their relationships, gained such feelings.  I myself would rather not marry someone in the military because of the demands on time and loyalty.  It’s a good idea to be unified about things like money and children and ministry.  But they’re not essential.  And sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t know what we need.  One artist friend knew God would provide her with an artist-husband, whose soul could understand hers.  Another artist friend has been married for decades to a man who’s good with numbers instead.

Still other friends now happily married look back and think their “lists” or ideas were lacking some significant points, like respect for parents.

In our society we barely know what marriage is really about, let alone what makes for a good one.  Sometimes parents and mentors advise us.  Sometimes they’re just taking a guess and pioneering new territory they never ventured on in their own relationships. Some of it is good advice, general wisdom.  A lot of it is promoting self-interest.  Some of it is universally-useful advice about trusting God and loving others.

Are there legitimate deal-breakers?  Is it wrong to have a list of things we’re looking for?  What guiding principles are there for deciding to get married?  What is marriage?  What contributes to a good marriage?  If you choose rashly at first, is there hope for a good marriage in the end?

But the fuss we make about who to choose…

~ Miss Austen Regrets

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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There once was a handsome young man named David.  What happened to me through knowing him probably had something to do with growing up – with turning 20 and getting my own car and being exposed more to the general world than this homeschooler was used to.  He walked into my life when I was 19 years old and I immediately went into such a daze that I didn’t even remember his name, but I remembered his smile.  We found ourselves shortly thereafter attending the same Bible study.  I was so thrilled to see him there, and that he gave my elbow a little pinch when he recognized me, that I felt sick the rest of the night…  C’est la vie.

Because I met David, I realized I wasn’t 16 anymore.  And not-16-year-old women shouldn’t be looking for the qualities of a 16-year-old boy in a man they’re thinking of dating, or marrying.  I began to remake my list, but I didn’t even know what being a grown-up meant.  What was it to be an adult?  How was it different being an adult, marriage-ready man from an adult, marriage-ready woman?

Responsibility, a sober view of the world, selflessness – these are some of the traits I came to realize were important.  Discerning them wasn’t as simple as checking off a list like: no, he doesn’t drink; yes, he has a job; yes, he says he’s a Christian.  A drink here or there doesn’t prevent realizing that we get one chance at this life and that everything we do has consequences.  (At the time, I was met with a lot of young men who didn’t take the consequences of alcohol very seriously.  But they were breaking into my mind the possibilities.)  In David’s case, irresponsible men can have jobs.  They use them to fund and further irresponsible lives.  And though true Christianity has to do with imitating Christ, who made Himself nothing, saying we belong to the Church is only a tiny part of participation in that kind of life.  People can lie.  People can be deceived.

Because I met David, I learned to be patient in developing relationships.  I wanted more, more, more of people whose company I enjoyed.  I wanted to rush, rush, rush to see where it was leading with this man.  But it had to be OK some weeks at Bible study to just see him and ask how he was, waiting for the deeper conversation here and there.  That way I was learning more about him than just my urgent questions.  When you’re friends with someone, you get all of them, not just the parts whose relevance you can foresee.

Because I met David, I had my first opportunity to really make the choice between going with my feelings and going with my principles.  I had been in a low place spiritually, but this choice began to wake me up.

Because I met David, I discovered how sick hope could make me.  I hoped the charming bright-eyed conversationalist would line up with my principles – if not right away, then later (*soon* later, but I didn’t know about assuming “soon” back then).

Because I met David, I began to face some facts about marriage, among others: that it would be two broken people working together, helping each other.  I was still inspired by the idea of matrimony, but I started to realize that I wouldn’t marry a perfect man, that I didn’t deserve one either, and that being good myself didn’t guarantee that the man I married would always have been good.

Because I met David, I realized that the call God makes on Christians is not, “go be friends with potential husbands and men with no risk to your own heart, but be sure to steer clear of anyone not interested or unworthy” – no, God says, “love your neighbor” and especially to love those in the Church.  So even though David chose not to pursue me seriously, and even though I was disappointed, and even though I was still attracted to him – I couldn’t just run away.  I had to keep being his friend, keep desiring good for him, while also surrendering my plans for him.

Because I met David, I still kind of believe that I have beautiful eyes and a great smile (particularly when inspired by a man’s attention).  I took a break for a while from being on the watch for a potential husband.  I realized that even playing it safe with relationships can hurt.  I stopped believing in fairy tales and started believing in love.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Why it’s ok to look at engagement rings and date ideas as a single girl…

 

You hear it, if you’re a single woman, that the secret is to be content where you are.  Marriage can be an idol, after all, and you just have to be busy forgetting that you’re a woman whose calling is to be a wife and a mom.  That way you’ll not waste your life.  That way you’ll be like everyone else.  That way you’ll convince God that He can safely give you a husband and you won’t love the man more than the Giver.

 

I’ve been single long enough to be tired of hearing it.  I also don’t agree.  If it is true that God is calling me to be a wife and a mom, then it seems like I should be justified in preparing for that.  I ought to be expecting God to do what He says.  My life should reflect that future, just like a man called to missions studies the language and the gospel – or a woman called to nursing learns how to start an IV (and maybe even purchases a set of scrubs). One might compare this to the wise virgins having oil in their lamps, from Jesus’ parable.

 

Some days I get kind of discouraged about the whole thing.  And doing something that I would do if I knew from circumstances that I was getting married, even though circumstances aren’t showing that, is an act of faith in the invisible reality God knows about.  So it actually cheers me up to look through simple, inexpensive engagement rings and date ideas and to pick up the little useful-for-a-wedding-thing cheap at a thrift store.  It’s pretty useful to be doing things preparing for that life: read a parenting book; practice meal planning; learn better ways of communicating.  I expect to be a mom, so I can learn about pregnancy and attend a friend’s childbirth.  I expect to have a wedding, so I can brainstorm how I want the food at the reception to go.

 

I wouldn’t encourage a single person to do this every day.  (Married people probably shouldn’t do such things every day either!)  I don’t want to encourage discontent.  But can we please, please believe that God will do what He says?  Can that belief affect the choices we make with our lives?

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Once upon a time, right before I started this blog, I was noticing a lack of male leadership in my church.  Women who notice such things are usually pro-patriarchy; we’re complementarians, ok with pastors being only men and husbands being the head of the households (even of the wives!).  Those kinds of people are supposed to believe in submission, in not taking over authority not given to them; some of them don’t even believe in speaking during Church meetings.  So I talked to God about the situation, and asked Him, if I’m not allowed to teach men or take charge myself to get this right – and I’m not – then how shall I fix it?  Because God is not a crying female, He doesn’t entirely mind His children asking if they may be part of fixing problems.  Because He is a good authority, He assigned me the job of fixing myself and my own role in the problem.  What He said was to study biblical womanhood, and to study it together with other women, so that when we behave as we ought, our husbands and brothers and pastors and deacons and teachers and friends can be encouraged (by abiding need and by affirmation) to take up the leadership God has delegated to them.

 

This episode of my life is significant for a lot of reasons.

 

First, God spoke to me, clearly and directly answering a question I had been asking Him in prayer.  His speaking was inaudible, but it was not circumstantial.  I heard in my head clear sentences about what I was supposed to do and why.

 

Circumstances worked out to where the way I was to study with other women was made clear.  That very week before the sermon, an announcement was made that there would be a women’s ministry meeting, and anyone wanting to get involved should stay for the meeting.

 

I had become convinced that God had gifted me with teaching and I wasn’t using that spiritual gift.  At the meeting this possibility was specifically mentioned, and I volunteered to teach, subject and format already in mind (we spent 11 weeks on Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31).

 

Fourth, I learned a lot about godly womanhood and about studying the Bible with a community of women and about faith.  One lesson that stands out right now is related to God’s answer about how to get men to lead.  When we came to studying the Titus 2 characteristic of “discretion,” what we came around to was that a godly woman is a woman of influence.  She’s willing to do things behind the scenes, to not say or do overt things that could lead to conflict or disrespect or usurping a man’s role.  Instead she’s the good cousin to manipulative: she’s discreet.  The word carries with it also a sense of wisdom, of thoughtful intentionality, and of self control for the sake of others’ interests.

 

Finally, when our group of women finished studying Titus 2 and Proverbs 31, we moved into studying spiritual gifts – a breakthrough study for me and my beliefs about the Holy Spirit’s significant role in the Church and how the way we “do” church generally stifles that work.

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these two subjects: about authority and submission, as a woman and in the Church.  I value authority, but I am not sure I go out of my way to build it up over me.  I want to receive a good ruler (father, pastor, husband) as a gift out of the thin blue sky, but maybe I ought to be more pro-actively submissive.  This seems like a paradox.  And maybe to experience more of God’s grace in my life, I need to seek out stillness and rest from trying to do everything on my own initiative.  Maybe I need to trust.  Maybe I need to be willing to be hurt.

 

Love is a common thread between spiritual gifts, biblical womanhood, and leadership.  A lot of people these days say to get out of a relationship that causes you too much pain.  Don’t love someone unless you can get something out of it.  Keep your heart safe.  Take things slowly and cautiously so that you can try not to get hurt.  Don’t get used.  Thank God He didn’t treat us that way when He sent His Son.  Tremble at the example given: deny yourself; take up your cross; lose your life for His sake.  Love suffers long and is kind.  Paul was ready to be spent for the congregations he loved – even though the more he gave, the less they responded with love (2 Corinthians 12:15).

 

Christian love is not prudent, is not safe, is not painless.  Submission is radical trust that God will be glorified even when the authorities we’re following make bad decisions.  Giving should be without expecting any repayment and without fear for what we will eat, drink, or wear tomorrow.  When we are weak, we can boast about it because it magnifies God’s strength.  Thanks should be unexpected when we serve.  Instead of pursuing justice to the bitter end, we should allow ourselves to be wronged by our brothers.  The needs, sorrows, and joys of others belong to us.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Media (books and movies) should not be censored.  Original authors may censor their own works, in a sense, by omitting immoral content.  Should this resolution be adopted, there would be no fast-forwarding unwanted scenes in movies.  Ideally there would be no need to fast forward, since creators of media would not put inappropriate things in their works.  But this highlights a clash of values, where the artist and consumer may not agree on what is appropriate.  Refusing censorship increases freedom.  As a consumer, you have the freedom to reject a whole work – but you should not take someone else’s work and chop it up to use for your own ends.  This applies market pressure on producers to only present works whose content is not morally objectionable.  Ratings could be helpful in deciding ahead of time whether to watch a movie or read a book.  Or ratings could be a form of censorship, especially as the government limits audiences based on ratings.  Governments having the right to censor gives them too much power over the education of the populace.  Movie ratings of R and NC-17 have legal restrictions associated with them.  The government also controls who is sold “mature” materials.  Does it control who views them?  Is there a legal penalty for, say, parents letting their children view NC-17 films?  Individuals are welcome to censor for themselves, or for children, so long as they censor in whole.  Why is censorship a bad thing?  Objectionable content and explicit material sometimes get an idea across in the way the creator thinks is best or most powerful.  Explicit material negatives may outweigh the positives of being exposed to a new idea, for some consumers.  Also media tends to be complex with multiple subpoints versus one whole idea – so you may only be censoring a subpoint by fast forwarding one scene.  How do we judge criteria for including (whether the idea is important enough to be presented via explicit material)?  If the consumer is to make his own judgment call, how can he before viewing the piece and seeing how the scene ties in with the entirety?

Proverbs says*: the righteous foresee danger and take precautions. The fool goes on and suffers the harm, so we ought to prepare to live in third world conditions.  Third world conditions are defined as being without running water, electricity, plumbing, or transportation systems (for some examples).  The reason we should be ready is to survive and to help others survive.  We need to plan, to figure out what will be the most effective means of survival.  Stockpiling food is probably not a good long-term strategy.  Stock-piling guns so we can take food from other people or to hunt for more food was suggested, arguing that there is a concentration of food in the city that would not quickly run out.  But there is a difficulty of transporting food from where found and grown to where people are gathered in cities.  So maybe we should spread out, buy several acres and start a commune.  It would need to be protected well, grow food, raise goats and chickens.  And if the goal is survival, we might want to make sure that the members have skills needed to contribute to the commune (and exclude those who wouldn’t be assets).  Is this a realistic foreseen danger, that our country will suffer third world conditions?  Why should we believe that the prophets foreseeing this danger are righteous (or prudent as in the verse) and that we ought to follow their “wisdom”?  Reasons for suspecting upcoming danger are: specialization of skills, and the direction of our economy.  Is prevention possibly more important than preparation, and how should we balance these in priority with limited time?  Are we putting too much emphasis on one proverb or teaching?  Is not the proverb referring to an imminent danger seen just ahead – not a risk of possible danger?  How would we do this and store up treasure in heaven?  There are other benefits of preparing skills that could be useful even if the danger does not come to pass.  It would be unwise to not prepare at all.  What about “seeking first thekingdom ofGod” because our heavenly Father knows our needs?  The ability to produce necessities could help neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.

*Proverbs 27:12 (NLT, closest I could find to what was quoted in the resolution) says: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

A healthy marriage is one that fights… WELL.  Fighting well is defined as with respect but no violence and without avoiding the conflict.  Never fighting is bad.  An assumption was made that there will be internalization of an offense, leading to growing bitterness, if it is not addressed between them.  The other extreme is that of violence, doing injury to one another.  A good marriage is in the middle, acknowledging and dealing with disagreement as a couple.  If the wife is obedient, isn’t there no fighting?  How does fighting well contribute to the purpose of marriage?  If conflict exists, married couples must deal with it well.  But is the existence of conflict a sign of a good marriage?  How frequently should conflict arise to prove a good marriage?  Is fighting the best way to deal with it?  Is conflict sinful?  The debaters speaking seemed frequently to assume that conflicts arose when one person sinned against another, but are there other reasons for conflict?  Is fighting sinful?  When you fight you have to work through a disagreement.  Repentance (of sin if there was sin causing the conflict) is more important than fighting. Why doesn’t the wife just submit as a way of dealing with it?  A wife should sharpen her husband (as opposed to always being silent and never expressing a dissenting opinion).  An example was given of a polygamous marriage in which one wife is sharpening her husband because that is the sort of relationship they have, but the other wives are to submit quietly and contribute to the household (think Jacob and his four wives, Rachel being the one he really wanted the emotional relationship with).  Assuming there is conflict, fighting badly and avoiding the conflict would not, either one, be productive responses.  A good marriage is one that communicates, that works as a team, and those virtues are hindered by the bad extremes of dealing with conflict.  A couple should decide in conference whether an issue is worth fighting about, and if not, let it go.  Allowing bitterness to grow (through avoiding conflict or not) is sinful.  It is a spouse’s spiritual duty as a Christian ‘brother’ to confront sin.  But it is less important to fight about non-sin.

Entertainment is wrong.  Entertainment defined as anything you do simply for pleasure or fun.  If you have more purposes, it is not entertainment.  Entertainment has unintended benefits.  Why would it be wrong?  It distracts from beneficial behavior.  It causes people to ignore good works.  It selfishly seeks gratification.  Laziness is bad.  Could we just say that entertainment shouldn’t be placed above something more beneficial?  Should people always do the most beneficial thing?  Being conscious of your motives is essential.  Are there other restrictions on fun or pleasure besides motives – extravagance of spending, content, frequency?  There is such a thing as Christian pleasure.  We are not choosing between something fun and some good work, but good works that can also be fun – or at least bring us pleasure as we honor God with our lives.  Friendship is impoverished when people cannot connect on pleasures and interests.  Does this resolution lead to justifying entertainment by adding other motives?  Or do we add entertainment to other central motives so that we get enough fun in?

In the following resolution, ‘Church’ is defined as the assembling of Christians as described in the New Testament.  Because Pigfests are so much like Church, we should let women be silent.  (This was my resolution, and as a female, I refused to say anything more after this for fifteen minutes.  A few women continued to contribute, but the debate was mostly carried by the men present.)  Pigfests are not enough like Church, in that they are not claiming to be church; only then could rules about Church apply.  Churches, definitionally, have leadership structures that Pigfests lack.  Is women’s silence useful for something in particular?  (after a pause in conversation) Things get decided faster!  The New Testament says that where two or more believers are gathered, that is Church.  So if Christians are driving in a car, the women shouldn’t talk?  If only two Christian women are present there would be no talking?  That would make for less gossip (though men gossip also).  Is a Pigfest more like church than those (in car, 2 women) gatherings?  New Testament Church was a gathering devoted to doctrine, teaching, and reading the Word of God.  New Testament church gathered for edification (one of the stated purposes for Pigfests).  New Testament Church is for worship.  Where is the verse about women being silent?  There is a scarcity of conversation when men who are used to women participating are faced with women being silent.  1 Corinthians 14:34 was read: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (NKJV)/“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)  The verses assume that women are present, listening.  A husband or father can benefit in at least two ways from the “asking at home” in verse 35: 1) He needs to pay extra attention to be able to answer, 2) The man has the responsibility to participate at Church, whereas the woman just observes and has a more objective perspective.  These two perspectives are joined at home through the personal interaction with the women who saved up questions and thoughts.  How do unmarried women get their questions answered?  (In jest, it was suggested that unmarried women did not belong at church and should be out finding husbands instead.)  Unmarried women can learn from fathers.  Most “churches” in theUnited States let women speak.  Does silence mean what we think?  Why ‘let’?  Corinthians also says a few chapters before that women praying and prophesying in Church should have their heads covered, allowing speaking in some circumstances.  Both passages deal with subjection and are perhaps driving at a deeper concept that would be applicable at Pigfests.

Churches should draft all attendees to serve in preschool nursery care during service.  (My summary is not based on notes for this one, but on memory of segments caught while I was preparing dinner in the adjacent room.)  Assumes churches have nurseries.  Give visitors a few weeks before requiring them to serve.  Should service be determined by gifting, desire, request of elders/deacons, or by mandatory rule?  What are the dangers of having someone who is not a Christian or who knows nothing about taking care of children serving in those ministries?  Why are parents often expected to serve when they’re the most burnt out?  Specifically mentioned was the class of empty-nesters and older people who could be a help to young parents.  Parents need a break from children.  Why this ministry above others?  Evangelizing children is so important because you are so much more likely to get a conversion from people before they reach adulthood.  And the kids are ready to be learning truths about God and stories from the Bible that will benefit them their whole lives.  But is that what Church is for?  The same people tend to serve in many ministries and get burnt out, but a draft would ensure that those accustomed to coming to church as only consumers would contribute.  (Again, I apologize for not having more detailed notes.)

Fasting is bribing God to do what you want Him to do.  Does it always work – that God gives us what we want when we fast?  The Bible does say, of fasting, that God rewards what is done in secret.  But that reward might not be granting what we ask.  Bribery is wrong when it perverts justice.  Fasting is different from prayer.  It puts us in the mindset or mood to accept God’s will.  But people in the Bible initiate fasting when they really want something (example of Esther).  Are there other motives than asking God for something?  Should we fast merely to be open to find what God’s will is?  The act of fasting, apart from God “answering” in some way, practices self-denial and being open.  The hunger is a reminder that we are hungering for other things.  It helps us remember to pray, to practice for or relate to famine and starvation in the world.  Jesus talked about praying in secret and fasting in secret, not seeking the praise of men.  Jesus’ disciples did not fast, Jesus said, because they had the bridegroom with them.  So fasting is an appropriate response when separated, a sort of mourning.  Is Jesus with us now?  Matthew 6 contains Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  Feasting is the opposite of fasting.  Jesus also said that some demons came out by prayer and fasting.  Why did Jesus fast for 40 days?  Does the Old Testament Law have instructions for fasting, especially why?  Was there some tradition of fasting when separated from a bridegroom?  Husbands and wives, in 1 Corinthians 7, are allowed to be separate from each other only for a time of fasting.

Premarital sex is not wrong; you just have to marry the person.  Is marriage, then, to be seen as a penalty?  Paying the dowry was also required by the Old Testament law.  Fornication is often forbidden in the Bible.  The Hebrew and Greek words translated fornication are mostly associated with harlotry, or descriptions of sexual immorality or sin which would include the other sins listed in the Old Testament Law: incest, homosexuality, beastiality, rape, and adultery.  Is a male paying for dinner sufficient payment for relations to be considered prostitution?  If the woman cooks a man dinner, is she paying him?  What is the penalty in the Mosaic Law for visiting a prostitute?  Is almost barely permissible really “ok”?  What if the woman doesn’t want to marry the man?  Are they then sinning?  If the father refused, in the Old Testament, they didn’t have to marry.  It is not beneficial to prove that unwise things (as being debated: premarital sex) aren’t sinful.  Would the couple be sinning if they repeatedly had sex before they were married?  Is there a time limit before they must marry?  What is the impact of telling people they’re sinners if they aren’t sinning before God?  There are positive instructions in the Bible to keep our bodies pure, not prostituting them.  Women, at least, are also told to be chaste – and what is the definition for that?  The Old Testament allowed a man to annul his marriage if he discovered that the woman he married was not pure – not a virgin.  Is it a fair argument that because the Mosaic Law does not treat premarital sex with the same consequence (death) as other sexual sins, that it is not immoral or sinful?  The law about requiring a couple to marry is a protection for a woman, who gets one chance to choose whom she marries.  It is better, Paul said, to marry than to burn – not to give in to the burning and then get married.  What are we doing to teens who engage in this behavior but are not encouraged to marry?

*A Pigfest is 15 minutes long, and I am glad that such a topic cannot be thoroughly explored in that time.  Pigfest topics often spur further conversation, study, and debate after the party has ended.  I am aware of many such discussions and investigations following this particular resolution.  In the interest of spurring people on to holiness, I am adding some notes that were not covered in the debate.  1) It is almost impossible for premarital sex to occur without sinning in some other way – especially in dishonoring parents.  2) If Jesus’ relationship with the Church is to be well-pictured by weddings and marriages of Christians, then there will be abstinence until marriage.  Abstinence also accords with the way God instituted marriage.  3) As our ceremony and vows are not described in biblical accounts of weddings, it is hard to determine what constitutes a marriage before God.  However, the act of intercourse, it is made clear by the law in question, is not sufficient to make one married.  4) The biblical understanding of harlotry comprised more than our modern understanding of prostitutes for hire; it very likely included all premarital sex.  5) Christian virtue calls for purity, self-control, fleeing youthful lusts.  6) Marriage that is supposed to be a life-long commitment, recognizing submission as ordained by God – not governed by force or passion – is not starting out on a good foot if it is begun in insubordination to parents, giving in to lusts, and letting self control rather than be controlled.  7) We ought to hold Christians to the high standard of God, and in the New Testament era, to exercise church discipline on those unrepentant about their sin – so long as we identify sin for what it is.  8) Christians should be clear on the source of their understanding of what constitutes sin.

Betrothal should last at least one year consisting of spending a lot of supervised time with no physical intimacy.  Why so long?  Can you back out of a betrothal?  Parents would be more comfortable giving their child in marriage after such a year.  In that year a couple could learn about conflict resolution and be more mature about their relationship.  The goal would be less divorce, discovering compatibility.  Pre-arranged marriages (which had basically no interaction before the wedding) also have less divorce and are more mature, since they start with a commitment to work through the marriage.  Short engagements save you from temptation.  Should we be saved from temptations?  Long engagements enable you to save money for a wedding.  It is possible (preferable?) to know people well before you get engaged so that you wouldn’t need a year-long betrothal to get to know them.  Shouldn’t Christians just be able to have a good marriage with anyone else who is a Christian?  Why do we need all these conditions and preparations?  (For example, arranged marriages work in many cultures.)  Parents know their kids well.  Who better to decide whom they should marry?  God might know better.  It would be beneficial, in the proposed betrothal situation, to have that support and accountability that comes from the supervision.  But wouldn’t such support and accountability be just as useful if it were instituted at the beginning of a marriage?  Should community help (not supervision) end at the wedding?  Church discipline should be an option for divorce or marital problems, a further example of accountability after the wedding.  There is value in a vow.  Following people with church discipline (the only way to effectively do it in this age of church choice and denominations) can get you sued.  Do the right thing anyway; help couples to have a good relationship and hold them accountable for sin.  A show of hands revealed that there was almost unanimous support present for short engagements.  When people get married for love, then the ‘butterflies’ go away and they don’t feel like being married any more.  (Would the butterflies go away because of the year-long highly supervised, get to know each other very well betrothal?)  Some husbands ‘testified’ that the butterflies haven’t gone away.  Awwww….

Gluttony is one of the most prevalent and least talked about sins in America.  The silence is surprising given the number of health problems related to gluttony.  Gluttony is defined as desirous of food to the point where you put it above God.  How would it be put above God?  Testimony was reported of one whose “soul reached out to eating food,” that it was a focus of his life.  If gluttony was so prevalent, more people would be 400 pounds.  But there can be gluttony even in a culture with much higher risks of suffering starvation.  Gluttons desire to eat – and they aren’t picky about eating good food; in this way as in other ways, it is similar to drunkenness.  It is, however, harder to tell when a person is being gluttonous.  Obesity or lack thereof is not proof of gluttony – or of not being a glutton.  It is not gluttonous to occasionally, at feasts (think Thanksgiving), eat too much.  Why does our culture address it – when it does – as a health issue or a corporate issue instead of as sin?  The main verses addressing gluttony were found and read, particularly those in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.  Bulimia – partaking without consequences of nourishment – might be related to gluttony, though it is likely associated with other mental health (spiritual?) issues more.  If someone struggles with gluttony, it should be treated as sin – and deliverance should be sought by acknowledging it to be sin.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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